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Why Flat Design is Trending

Once again, the Internet is abuzz, this time with the latest trend in digital design. Apple’s iOS 7 rollout is stoking the fires of the latest great debate— Flat Design, to implement it, or not? The subject has polarized designers, who seem to either love it or hate it. Meanwhile, the rest of us are simply wondering, “What is it, and why should I care?”

What You Need to Know About Flat Design– The Pros

It might be easiest to define Flat Design simply by what it is not. Flat design has no shadowing, bevelled edges, textures, or 3-D effects— elements are flat and appear on one plane within operating systems, web pages, and applications. Flat design really is what it sounds like: a boiled down design style that displays elements according to a minimalistic philosophy that promotes clarity by dialing back the glitz. Because more and more people access the web from their phones, clarity is a big concern for designers. As screens get smaller, simplified designs will be integral to digital interfaces.

Past design philosophies focused on providing so-called “skeuomorphic” cues— visual effects that closely emulate real-life visual cues in order to make interacting with digital interfaces easier for novice users. Critics of skeuomorphism argue that an ornate design style that focuses on providing flashy eye-candy detracts from usability and draws focus away from the purpose of the software. On the other hand, it’s important for software to be visually attractive. Flat Design attempts to be aesthetically pleasing without being over-stimulating, allowing the user to focus on function.

Why Non-Technical Users Might Not Respond Well to Flat Design– The Cons

The downside to Flat Design is that it tends to be designed with tech-savvy users in mind. While usability for technology-oriented users goes up, usability for the nontechnical and those unused to working with digital technologies goes down with the absence of those life-like cues. The benefit of skeuomorphic design is that it helps novice users transition into using digital technologies. For example, if someone is used to taking notes in a notebook, it might be helpful for them to transition to using a digital application that emulates the look of a traditional notebook.

Flat Design will not be effective for every kind of business. When deciding whether you should implement Flat Design principles, focus on your demographic and your customer. If your average customer is not very tech-savvy, it might be better to stick with a skeuomorphic design style in order to help guide them through your app, site, or other software. Likewise, you’ll want to consider how the design might affect the way you present your product online. You can always opt for a design style that combines elements of both styles.

Wondering if Flat Design could improve your website or mobile app? Contact us today to find out.

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